The church that Jesus built.That seems like such a simple statement. But really, behind it is a question of the ages. Each and every organization that wishes to be affiliated with Jesus claims to be that church of Jesus Christ, from the Roman Catholic Church to the protestant churches. (NOTE: When I say protestant churches I refer to the churches that came into existence immediately after the reformation and that made a deliberate separation from the shackles of Rome. In other words the reform leaders were at one time Roman Catholic, then they separated from Rome in protest of their heresy and cruelty to those who did not attend to those heresies they believed in. There are many "churches" that are not true Protestants according to this term.
Defining a Church:
What church is the one that Jesus built? A fair question, and a very important one. From what I said above I think we can eliminate all protestant churches, and any church started up since the reformation, they just do not have a valid claim to their claim of being the church Jesus built. That leaves only the Roman Catholic church and all these smaller insignificant churches that have come down through the ages. The claim that The Roman Catholic church did come down from the time of Christ is valid. However, it is not hard to prove to an honest inquirer that the Roman church could not be Jesus' true church now because it's candle* was blown out long ago due to heresy in it's teachings. That leaves only those many small, insignificant churches that were scattered about and persecuted by the Roman Church. (by the way these small individual churches were later persecuted by the churches that came out of the reformation too.) The Roman Catholic church claims to be the faithful, and these other smaller groups the heretics. In fact the reverse is true. Let's consider the commission to the church in:
*Note: The term "candle" as used in the Bible symbolizes the authority Jesus gave His church - also can mean the "life" of that church - so removing the candle means losing the authority, or status as Jesus church.
Go Ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Upon this rock (himself) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
This commission and promise of continuity had to be given to the apostles as an organization - the church - since the promise was to be with them until the end of the world. Since the apostles have been long gone He could not have been talking to them as individuals but as His Church. If there has ever been a time since Jesus started His church that a direct physical descendent of that church at Jerusalem He started has not existed, then Jesus' promise of continuity and protection from the gates of hell has failed and Jesus himself failed, and He has lost all credibility on anything He has ever said. You see, Jesus led the church personally while here in the flesh, then transferred that leadership to the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and that leadership of the Holy Spirit still exists today. Jesus also gave His church the authority to continue His work on earth until He returns.
There has to be a continuous passing on of authority from one church to another, each succeeding church mothering a new offspring - or creating another church - giving it the same authority Jesus gave His original church and passed down the same way from church to church all down through the ages. Life begets life. The "life" of the church is that authority from Him (the commission we just read is that authority) to carry on in His name, to Baptize, and carry out the Lord's supper, all the things He commanded his church to do.
Thus, passing on this "life" from one church to a succeeding church is as important as keeping mankind's "life" alive. If every last man died, then mankind would be wiped out, would he not? and could never be restarted again. This is happening all through the animal kingdom. Note the Dinosaurs for instance, every last one of them died off, and they can never be replaced because their continuity was cut off. The same as the church. If continuity is cut off, the church ceases to exist. "Life" must pass from a "mother" to an offspring of that church.
A church started by man without the authority of a church that already has the authority is in fact not a church of Christ, but a church of the originator of that "church". It has no passed on authority and is acting on it's own, without God's approval, and therefore does not have any promise of God of continuity and protection. Although it may start off with the best of intentions, and teach a good deal of truth, it inevitably will apostatize and go into error, it was never a true church so never had a candle, so it would never be blown out.
That is what some of these other churches that existed all the time through the ages beside the Roman Catholics were, Christ's church. And just like today, not all of them would be accepted by Jesus as His church. Some probably were at first, but drifted off into heresy and had their candle blown out. Each church, in those days, as well as these days must be looked at individually to judge whether they could be accepted as Jesus church.
Baptists believe the churches we now call Baptist churches, or Missionary Baptist Churches, are Jesus church -- but not every one of them is -- because so many, in fact the vast majority of them, has fallen into heresy, and has had their candle blown out. To distinguish true churches from the fallen ones, the added name "Missionary" Baptist Church was put onto our name. Now, so many of these have fallen into heresy we have added another name - "Landmark Missionary Baptist Churches". This is to separate ourselves from those who call themselves Baptist, but are not Baptist in their teaching. People like being called Baptist, after all, this is what God Himself called the man who baptized Jesus - John the "BAPTIST". But they do not like holding to the doctrines he or the ones he baptized taught.
Defining and comparing beliefs:
Now to get down to the reason for this article, to compare the doctrines taught by Jesus Baptist Church with others who call themselves Baptist, but in reality do not teach Baptist doctrine. Up to 40 years ago the word Baptist meant something - different - it distinguished us from all other churches because of the different doctrines we taught compared to even the best protestant churches. Now, because of heresy in most Baptist churches the name does not stand out as - different. That's why we have added those two names, to maintain that difference.
Remember, I am not writing a history here, just a few comments of what we believe and comparisons between what different churches believe, if you want a history of Baptists, many good books can be obtained from most Baptist church's book store.
Maybe before I get down to comparing heretical Baptists with Missionary Baptist I should explain a few terms first. One - the two different systems of theology in salvation. We have the system called "Arminianism". This belief states that God offers to man His Grace - salvation, free, but that we have to accept that offer, we can make a decision whether to say yes and get to spend eternity in heaven as a reward for accepting Jesus, or say no and go to hell. It is entirely up to us. Even after we say yes, at a later date we can change our mind and say no, I want nothing to do with God, Jesus, or heaven. This is manifested in many ways by the teaching -- "God is knocking on the door of your heart, but you have to open the door to let him in" -- or, "God has put in a vote for your soul so He can take you to heaven - but the devil has too, for himself - and now you have the deciding vote. And of course there is the preachers that just pleas with sinners to "give their heart to Jesus, let him in because he wants you so bad, but can't do a thing until you let him."
The above is the belief of the natural, unregenerate man. You see it in every religion where there is no spiritual life, from the most primitive religion like the Indian hunting ground to the most sophisticated church such as the Roman Catholics or Anglicans, or Judaism, and all religions in between whether within the "Christian" religion or outside of it like Muslims, etc. And note very closely who gets the glory when one is saved. Great, almighty man and his "free will" does because he controls God by the decision he makes.
The other system of salvation is called Calvinism by the world. In this system, man is lowered to the created, whereas God is the Creator and is in charge all the time. It teaches that man is:
Totally depraved- man due to his depraved nature is unable to live up to the standard God requires or to change himself from a guilty sinner once he has committed a sin and become a guilty sin. That can never be changed. Man is unable in any way to even want to come to God or think a positive thought in God's favor or do a good work pleasing to God or carry out any kind of obedience to God or responsibilities we think God has for us unless God gives him the ability to do so through the quickening (making alive a new nature) in that individual. It is that new nature that God has just planted in that saved one that believes, is obedient, puts in our mind to do good or meet our responsibilities, the natural, human mind still rebels, and always will as long as we are in the flesh. Calvinist believe that God must take the initiative in salvation referred to as --
Unconditional election - He did the electing of His people before the foundation of the world by electing certain ones to be saved, then ordained those he elected, then in time sought out and made alive those He chose. This gives us -
limited atonement - Jesus' atonement is only for those God chose to be saved and no one else. Calvinist believe that when God is ready to call His elect He calls them with an:
Irresistible grace - that is, no one will say no to God. God makes them willing in the day of His power through the Holy nature God has "born us again" with. (Psalm 110:3, Ezekiel 36:27). And then when an individual is saved, God keeps that one saved by His power - or by that same Holy nature working within us. called -
Perseverance of the saints - In other words Calvinists believe that salvation is of the lord, the AUTHOR and FINISHER of our faith, just like the apostles did. (Hebrews 12:2) And note who gets the glory for a person's salvation. It goes to almighty God, where it should go to.
I would also like to explain the different types of church systems in Christian theology. There is a third - the Roman Catholic universal Catholic church - but I won't go into that because I do not think that is an issue here. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, in order for churches to have Christ given authority to carry out His work, this authority must be passed from church to succeeding church. The Roman Catholic church has no problem here. They were part of the numbers of churches that came out of the church that Jesus started in Jerusalem. But as time went by many of these churches apostatized into error and had their candle blown out, so they went their own way, and eventually organized into one big church, or denomination, instead of staying all independent churches. It eventually became known as the Roman Catholic church. Meantime, other churches stayed faithful to God's word, never organized into a single conglomeration, and stayed independent of each other. They were called by different names in different places, but all held to essentially the same doctrines.
With the above in mind, when the Protestants came along, they knew they could not claim to be in direct physical link back to the church Jesus started, so they had to come up with an excuse for their existence.
That excuse is the universal invisible church.
According to those that believe in the universal invisible church, a person becomes a member of that church on being saved. There is not too much one can say about this heresy, because everything else about the church is done by a local church. It has to be so, because we humans are physical so what we do has to be done in the physical.
The ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper are practices the church was to carry out. Which one - the local or the universal invisible church. The former naturally. The Bible gives no hint of two churches - a local body made up of real people and a universal invisible church, made of of invisible people - it has to be one or the other.
The other type of church is strictly the local body. Jesus started His church - a body (group) of people just like you and me, with himself as the pastor and the disciples as the first members. At the time of Pentecost there was 120 members in that church/body. It was this church (body) that Jesus said to look after each other, discipline unruly members & passed his authority to through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, gave the ordinances to etc., and it is still churches/bodies made up of people just like them that carry on this work today. Missionary Baptist believe in this type of church, and we believe that one joins a church through baptism.
We believe in the family of God, which is what the universal invisible people mistake for the church. The family of God consists of all saved in heaven and earth, from the first saved in Adam's time to the very last person who has been saved as of this second, as long as you are saved, you belong to the family of God. Mentioned in:
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.
Then there is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom consists of all saved on earth at any given time of history. I will just use one scripture, but there are many more I could use:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again (receive a new, Holy nature from God) he cannot see (understand, or perceive) the Kingdom of God.
(See several more times in this chapter alone)
Then there is the church -- This word church comes from the Greek word "ecclesia". This is no mysterious word. It was a word commonly used in the days of Jesus in and around where Jesus worked. The word ecclesia simply means a called out and organized assembly, assembled for a specific purpose. Any purpose. Although the most common would be the assembly of rulers that governed a city or even a country. It is used in Acts 19:39 as a lawful assembly, probably referring to the governing body of the town. Then a couple of verses later, referring to the mob. It speaks of them as an unlawful assembly (ecclesia). Jesus distinguished His assembly (ecclesia) by calling it my ecclesia.
We call that church (ecclesia) today a Missionary Baptist church. But it has been known by many names over the years, such as Waldenses, Anna Baptists, Albigences, Mennonites, etc.
So whenever you see the word church think of it as an ecclesia/assembly/body.
Then finally before I get down to what this article is all about, comparing the doctrines of Jesus' Baptist Churches with those other churches that call them selves Baptist. Just a word of explanation before getting into that part of this article. Because of the many and varied beliefs that you can find among even those calling themselves Baptist, I can only give a very general idea of what these people believe. I cannot emphatically say an individual church believes such and such. There are some that might believe that, or not hold to the other. This is one thing about most evangelical churches (which the world includes Baptists of all types under) they are not forced to hold to one line of doctrine on pain of being excommunicated such as you find in the Roman Catholic church and most of the protestant's bigger churches. Each individual church has to be looked at and evaluated on it's own merit, not on congregational merit. And this is certainly true of those who are Baptist even if in name only. For instance the FellowShip Baptist Association of Ontario in general is reasonably good. Quite a few of them teach a fair amount of truth, and yet there is many among their ranks I would not waste gas going 100 feet to attend their services, let alone 100 miles. So remember, I can only speak in general terms.
Here are the comparisons:
On creation: We believe in the Genesis record of creation.
Others: believe in the Genesis record of creation.
Adam and Eves fall: We believe in their fall and the resulting curse brought on Mankind as a result.
Others: believe in their fall, and the resulting curse brought on mankind as a result.
Original sin: We believe as a result of the sin in eating that forbidden fruit Adam and Eve became sinners, and Passed to each and every offspring of the human race since them, their sinful, rebellious nature.
OTHERS: believe as a result of their sin in eating of that forbidden fruit Adam and Eve became sinners, and passed their sinful, rebellious nature off on every member of the human race since them.
The Bible: We believe that the Bible IS God's word. That in it's original form, the letters were written by the hand of man, but were inspired, or moved, or directed by the Holy Spirit. God put His thoughts in the mind of the writer then that writer wrote them on paper which eventually became part of what we call the Holy Bible. The Bible is not the words of man, but God's own instructions to a lost world. We believe that the Bible is the final court of appeal - when God says it, that settles it, there is no argument - period. A person not able to accept God's word as final is not born of that new Holy nature of God.
Others: believe (in general whether in practice or not) that the Bible in its original form, the letters were written by the hand of man but were inspired or moved by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is not the words of man but God's own instructions to a lost world. The above may not be true of a lot of weaker churches, they might believe that it contains the word of God only. What part is God's word, and what part is not is left up to each one of us to figure out - according to them. (In attitude if not in actual teachings.)
Baptism: By immersion in water by an authorized man given that authority by the church who got it from Jesus. Who is himself saved and baptized. Will not accept Baptisms from other churches (alien baptism) except another true church of Jesus. From other types they would have to get Baptized by the present church. That's how we got the name Anna Baptist - (Re-Baptizers)
Others: By immersion in water, will accept baptisms (alien baptism) from most churches, "Baptist" or not.
The Lord's supper: We use unleavened bread and unleavened fruit of the vine - wine. Why? Because grape juice has leaven (yeast) in it. Leaven in the Bible is always a picture of sin and corruption. Since in the partaking of this supper the wine represents Jesus' sinless, pure blood that was shed on the cross and the bread represents His flesh that was so mutilated by this event, how can you use leavened bread and grape juice that is full of leaven (that represents sin and corruption) to represent holiness and perfection. The Only difference between grape juice and wine is: wine is - grape juice with the leaven taken out. Taking the leaven out makes a big difference, and is simple to do, just let grape juice stand a few weeks and a white foam comes to the top. That is the leaven - and it looks sinful just to look at it!!! That "grape juice" is now wine. Let's look in scripture for the criteria for the Lord's supper.
Exodus 12:15 & 19
Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day that SOUL SHALL BE CUT OFF FROM ISRAEL.
Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: FOR WHOSOEVER EATETH THAT WHICH IS LEAVENED, EVEN THAT SOULS SHALL BE CUT OFF FROM THE CONGREGATION OF ISRAEL, WHETHER HE BE A STRANGER, OR BORN IN THE LAND. See also Exodus 23:18
This is actually the establishing of the passover, but it is the forerunner of the Lord's supper, same elements are used. God does take VERY seriously the elements used in this ceremony. And so should we.
We allow only saved members in good standing of that individual church to participate in the Lord's supper. (closed communion) Note that "good standing with that church" is the key word. According to God's rule of standard as recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:18 to the end, gives the rules for participating in The Lord's supper.
Others: Procedure is same, but many use grape juice instead of wine. Will allow anyone professing to be a Christian to partake of the Lord's supper. (open communion) Leaven as used in the Bible typifies sin therefore is an insult to a Holy God to use it to typify Jesus pure blood and perfection.
Salvation: Strictly by grace. (which means given with no merit on your part but is God's influence working in us working out His predetermined will in our life) in other words - you in no way deserve what God gives. He gives you salvation according to His will despite all your sins, based entirely on His eternal purpose. The changes that are made in one's thinking, lifestyle, etc. are made by God's Holy Spirit at work in us. Read Ephesians 1:5,9,11, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20. Other scriptures could be found, but I hope these will suffice to show you it is God's work in us and that not of our selves.
Others: By grace. Even if in reality it is not grace they practice in it's true meaning. (God working in us the changes in thought word and deed, they just do not understand this work of God in a saved one) Most of these churches are Arminian in practice. (See explanation of Arminianism near beginning of this article) These vary widely in their Calvinism/Arminianism beliefs. Some might just as well be holy roller churches, holiness churches, or some sect like the Jehovah Witnesses for all the truth you would get from them. They hold in varying degrees, from church to church, the 5 points of Calvinism/Grace as ex explained earlier in this article. But none believe in the local church as the church Jesus built.
The Church: Missionary Baptists believe in the local assembly like that Jesus started and promised Perpetuity (continuity) until He comes again, therefore is still in this world today. See explanation of churches in first part of this article.
Others: believe in the universal invisible church as explained earlier in this article.
Sovereignty: We believe that God is the creator, and as such He has the right to do what He wants with man as well as the rest of His creation, when He wants, how he wants, where he wants etc. See Daniel 4:35. Romans 9:11-25
Others: do not, or if they do it is very limited, and certainly cannot conflict with man's "free will" which they believe in much stronger than God's sovereignty. They believe the created can tell their creator what He can do. They give God Permission to save them, to refuse God's offer, or if they agree to be saved can reverse that decision at a later time and lose that salvation God once gave them. Or one could commit a serious sin and lose his salvation because of it. Then they must repent of that sin and be saved all over again. This could be repeated over and over again during one's life-time. They encourage you to not sin or else you might die in the unsaved cycle and go to hell. It sounds just like somebody turning a light switch on and of-- light, dark--light, dark--on, off, on, off--on, off--saved, unsaved???
Election: We believe God elected certain individuals to be saved, to manifest His power and grace to. He did this strictly according to His own eternal will, with no consideration of man's will at all. Since man is totally "depraved", (unable to believe, or even want to believe in or do the things of God - unable to change from bad to good - or from guilty to innocent) would by human nature reject God's offer of Salvation. So God must make him willing, (see Psalm 110:3) by planting a Holy nature (the new birth) in him. This new Spirit (nature) creates a new person out of that one, who now wants to do God's will. He now has two natures, the old nature is still present, and there is always conflict between man's natural nature, and the new Holy one planted there by God. This will continue as long a person is in the flesh. The old nature - our human nature we were born with will always be disobedient to God, wanting only to please the pleasures of the flesh - the new nature from God will want to please God. You can see from this that when we sin and are disobedient we are under the influence of our human nature - when we are obedient and carrying out our responsibilities we are under the influence of the New Holy nature of God. In God's plan for our lives He has mixed in our lives sin as well as good. After all, we must remember that God created us with a sinful nature. Since He created us with a sinful nature He must have had some reason for that sinful nature in us - and the only reason for this was that we might sin. It was His purpose for us to sin - all part of His eternal plan. But He controls our sin - what sins we commit, how deep we go into sin, and even how far we go into a back slidden state. When we have fulfilled His purpose by our sin He will send someone to influence our repentance and restoration to God's fellowship. It is all of God - the reason known only to Him. The old nature cannot do good, only sin and rebellion - the Holy nature cannot sin and can only do good and be obedient. Remember the corrupt tree and the good tree?
Others: Most reject it, but others in varying degrees accept it. Most that do claim that he looked down the avenue of time and saw who was going to be saved and elected them on that basis??? They call that election, they just cannot accept God overruling man's mighty free will. It is very hard having man's free will and God's sovereignty exist side by side. If man's free will overrules God's will then God is not sovereign, if God's sovereign will overrules man's will then man does not have a free will to do as he pleases.
Predestination: Same as election, the only difference, election is the selecting the ones he wanted (the elect are also called God's Sheep) while predestination is the act of working out the events leading to that ones actual conversion.
Others: Same as election.
Eternal security: We believe that since salvation is of God, the author and finisher of our faith, the finishing of our faith consists of God keeping us saved by that second nature planted in us working out His will in our lives. See Philippians 2:13 and others.
Others: Some do - some do not. Would have to be evaluated individually, as in fact most doctrines would.
The Gospel: We believe that Christ was the sacrifice required by God as pictured all through the Old Testament and it's sacrificial lamb dying to cover the sins of God's people. That Christ kept the law to perfection, that He imputes to us who trust in Him His righteousness gained from His fulfilling the law, then in turn dies on the cross to pay the penalty God's law demands of sin, for us who did the sinning, making us perfect In God's eyes. Perfect, just as perfect as Jesus Himself since we are justified by Jesus own righteousness. Justified - JUST-AS-IF-I'D-NEVER-SINNED.
He then returned to heaven to sit at God's side and acts as a mediator between God and his people. He will some day return, all His people will be resurrected in a new glorious body. Those will go to heaven to be with Christ for eternity -- others, the unbelievers will be sent to hell with Satan to eternal punishment for rejecting Christ as Savior.
Others: Pretty well the same, varies, but still keeping to that old Nature's error of having had to do something to please God, even if "just making a decision for him" or that our faith is something we create in ourselves.
Discipline: Self. We believe that we must "get a hold of ourselves", and plan our lives around God and not just fit Him into holes as it is convenient to us. We realize that although God "tells" us to do this or not do that, the natural mind will never follow those instructions - that it takes the new Holy Nature in us overruling our old rebellious human nature to obey.
Others: They believe that the good comes from some good in our own heart and that we can actually obey some of God's commandments to merit God's approval and might use these good works as a means of earning our salvation.
Church discipline: We believe that the church has the right, and is even obligated to discipline unruly members. Ones who are known to live in immorality, that brings disgrace on Jesus and His Church. If one commits a serious immoral act, that one is disciplined, usually by excommunication, at least until that one repents, corrects his error and apologizes to the church, then he can be reinstated. Unfortunately, a lot of churches do not practice what they believe, church discipline is not carried out and there is a lot of people let get away with a lot they should not be allowed to get away with, that hinders the testimony of the church. Others discipline where the Bible gives no call for such action - or goes too far - such as putting one out of the church because one said something to the pastor he didn't like and for revenge conspires to get rid of that "trouble maker". That action should be for immorality alone. There are other forms of discipline a church can take against members as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5. Namely, not letting an unruly member partake of the Lord's supper, and just treating that person as a sinner, having no fellow ship with him.
Others: believe much the same, whether practiced or not is a different matter, they are worse than our own churches.
God's discipline: We believe that God chastises in the flesh those who commit serious sins, that are not living up to His standard. Job 5:17, Proverbs 3:11 and Hebrews 12:5. This chastisement (corrective punishment) can take many forms. It is usually some financial set back, or a health problem or injury, and can even go as far as taking one's physical life. We strongly advise any person confessing to be a Christian to watch his life style, whether it is pleasing to God. If not, you will know it sooner or later. One of the greatest ways to judge if a person is what he says he is, is to observe him if he persists in committing a sin or living in sin. Does God send some sort of calamity into his life, or a relative. If not, then you can be sure he is not really saved. They will get theirs in hell. A Christian's sin is caused by the flesh. (human nature) As we have seen before, our human nature can think nor do no good, therefore he will be punished while still in the flesh. Make sure you read Hebrews 12:8.
He does not chastise for every little sin, but if you keep it up, when he does act, YOU WILL BE AWFUL SORRY. It is suggested to those professing Christians that cannot live up to the minimum Bible standards not to join a church in the first place. It is a terrible thing to say, but it may be better for you, and certainly will be for the church. Lifestyle does not just mean living a morally good life - but watching the form of entertainment you attend, the organizations you join and the friends you choose. God makes it clear He wants us to separate ourselves from all worldly organizations and friends. That would be any organization not of a church output. That means RC Legion, The Goodfellows, Moose Lodge, Sportsman's Club, Bingo clubs, Masons, ethnic lodges such as the United Empire Loyalists, unions - and especially take part in anti-government or labor dispute demonstrations, etc.
That kind of activity is not the kind of activity Christians should take part in at all - all of which are human nature oriented and carry out practices not suitable for a Christian. (such as drinking) They may have some good points and some may do a lot of good, but they are still designed for human nature's pleasure and therefore we as Christians should separate ourselves from them. God says that if a person can't separate himself from the world then he is an enemy of God - a very good indication that that Holy Nature is not in him. If a person still holds to some of these practices even after being advised against it, and says he can't see anything wrong with them, then that is a pretty good evidence that there is no Spirit nature/Life in that person. It leaves a very narrow road to follow, but isn't that what God says what the road to His heaven is - a very narrow road, while the wide path leads to hell. Which one do you wish to follow?
Others: It varies on the church and the pastor. But on a whole I think they do believe that God will punish in the flesh those who commit serious sins.
End time Prophecy: I think I will skip this. There is just too much controversy over when things will happen, even what and where things will happen, even among sound Baptists that I will not get into that here. It is not important for salvation, so I feel I am not harming anything by not going into this subject.
Note too that these are not every possible doctrine I could find, but only a select few that could mean so much in our fellowship with God.
Finding a church worth joining.
With all the above in mind then, just how do we determine if a church is worth attending? A good question - and a very important one. So I will at this time go over the minimum requirements that is required of a church to be accepted as a Church that is still carrying the authority passed on to churches starting with the one Jesus was pastor of in Jerusalem. Remember though, that these are only guidelines that other Baptist churches have adopted over the years as a guideline as to whether a church is still a "true church". There has to be a line drawn somewhere as to where a church that has fallen into error has it's candle blown out (Jesus withdrawing His authority for that church to carry out His work) The Bible nowhere informs us just where that line is. Neither does He inform us where that line is that separates a saved person from an unsaved person - looking at them just from the standpoint of one's way of life. A new creature in Christ (saved person) should have signs of that second, Holy nature God put in them. And some of those signs should be a better lifestyle, one that separates himself from the world like I mentioned above, not join worldly organizations etc., one that has God as its center, certainly better than the world about us.
The Bible states that there are going to be people who profess to be saved, live a good life, then fall away, as if that one had lost his salvation. The Bible also makes it clear not to believe in his profession once he has shown his true nature. He never was saved, but was only like a pig who was taken out of the mud, his skin washed up nice and pink and made clean on the outside. Then it was allowed to go out on its own, and where did he go right off the bat? straight to the nearest mud hole. Why? That is his nature. And an unborn again person's nature is sinful, and that's where he will go when on his own, out of the influence of God - into sin. (2 Peter 2:22) Note: 2 Corinthians 6:17.
We take this very seriously along with 1 John 2:4,15-18. Please read all these scriptures, they are important. See 2 Peter 2:22. The Bible also states that many people who claim to be saved are not really saved. They may never even fall out with his church. These people we have to be very careful about, because they have every appearance of being saved but are not, and yet may try to have his way in the church a little too much. Be careful though, to tag a person as a troublemaker or a Godly man doing God's will - to know the difference is tricky, it takes spiritual wisdom. If you put the wrong tag on a person the church could really be in trouble. Others may be no bother at all, so let him be, you may not even suspect he is unsaved, even by his lifestyle. Reading a person's profession of faith by his lifestyle is not an infallible way to gauge whether a person is saved, so don't go by that entirely. Some antiChristian people are good living people on the surface, have good morals etc., but do not know Christ. So don't carry this looking at peoples life and saying he is or isn't saved just by how good a life he lives too far.
Take more into account what he believes and his disposition compared to Galatians 5 and the fruits of the Spirit. But judging by his lifestyle is about the only way you can judge to whether that person is one you would like to fellowship with. If you are his or her good friend and he has a reputation for not living up to Christian standards, you may ruin your own reputation as well as your churches reputation and testimony, ruining your chances of witnessing to others. So, if a person cannot live up to Christian standards it is very likely he does not have the Holy spirit nature and therefore a sinner - especially after you speak to him and he refuses to change - stay away from him.
The question is - what is the dividing line between those who are saved and are not. I do not think it is our job to go as far as to say that a person is not saved - But - it is our job - our responsibility to judge a person to the extent to whether we should fellowship with that person or not, judging on his life style, and his beliefs. If one's beliefs conflict with that of the church in serious matters such as the cardinal doctrines, then that person has no business in that church. Or if your beliefs conflict with the church you attend, and they will not be corrected, then you should get out. A person who is actually saved can be fallen so far away that God could actually take that one's life. In 1 Corinthians 11:30 Paul speaks of those who were saved but were not living an acceptable holy life so now they "slept". Sleeping as used in the Bible is usually referring to physical death. Death as used in the Bible is usually referring to eternal separation from God. (hell)
A parallel exists as far as the seeking the "true church" is concerned. It is not our job to determine if a church has had it's candle blown out, but it is our responsibility to judge whether we should attend and especially join and support that church. Only God's Holy nature in you can give you that wisdom to judge fairly and accurately. The following is a guideline accepted through out Missionary Baptist ranks to determine if a certain church can be accepted amongst us as another "true church". These are the "cardinal doctrines."
Salvation: By grace through faith, without works on our part. That faith is as much a grace as anything that we get from God. Any change in us is God's Holy nature at work in us.
The Gospel: That Christ fulfilled the law for us, and died to cover our sins, then returned to heaven with God to act as our mediator.
Baptism: By immersion, to saved people by proper authority. (True church" that has authorized - usually the pastor - to baptize) Cannot accept "alien baptism"
Lord's Supper: Using unleavened bread and wine. (some accept grape juice users, but personally I do not, I cannot see myself using grape juice which is loaded with leaven which pictures sin and corruption throughout the Bible) they must practice closed communion. (no outsiders)
The 5 points of Calvinism: Or in other words be Calvinists (the term used by the rest of the world.) Baptists refer to them as the 5 points of Grace. They are:
(1) Total depravity of man
(2) Unconditional election
(3) Limited atonement
(4) Irresistible grace
(5) Perseverance of the saints.
These were all explained in detail earlier in this article. An easy way to remember them is to take the first letter of each word, i.e.., T.U.L.I.P. to spell tulip.
Election: true election: on God's term not man's.
Predestination: God chose, then predestinated those He chose, then called those He predestinated, then glorified those he called (yet to be done, in heaven)
Jesus Church: That He has a direct physical descendent of His original church at Jerusalem still here on earth at present just as He said He would. And that care has been taken to see that that church has come out of a "mother church" all down through history.
If a church is in error in other doctrines other than these, they can still be considered a "true church." But these doctrines are the cardinal doctrines of the Bible, the very foundation of the true Christian faith. Be in error on these and you have nothing. These are the minimum requirements that is expected of a church to be considered a "true church". Otherwise, they are spiritually dead people, and certainly a spiritually dead "church." No Candle - no authority.
As can be seen from above, I, nor most Missionary Baptists would not even consider even attending a "Baptist church" with Arminianism persuasions. (see explanation of Arminianism earlier in article). These people just do not have any sign of spiritual life at all, no truth, so one could not hope to expect any kind of spiritual nourishment from them. That is what we attend church for, to be spiritually fed - right?.
Churches that teach Calvinism (the 5 doctrines of Grace) Missionary Baptists could attend, but not join. We would probably attend such a church in the absence of a "true" church being close enough to attend. We still could not join because there is still too much error, probably using grape juice in the Lord's supper for instance, and certainly believing in that universal, invisible church. But one could get some spiritual nourishment from them. See Revelations chapters 1,2 and 3 for God's warning to the seven churches of Asia, where in essence he is telling them to shape up or I will "remove thy candlestick"
Other errors to watch out for.
There are many practices within Baptist churches that are questionable. I would like to go over some of them. Like many things from the Bible there are those who grab onto a few words from the Bible and make a lot more of it than was originally meant by the Holy Spirit when He inspired said verses to be written down.
One of these is the subject of women's dress. Many Baptist churches insist that women wear dresses and no other type of outer dress - any time, not even around the house. They use the following scripture to prove their point.
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.
When I was first saved I believed many of these following beliefs I am about to go over. The pastor I was saved under believed them and of course as most young Christians I held to what my pastor believed, knowing no better. But as I grew in grace and knowledge from my own reading of scripture and God working in me, I began to question his teachings on these matters and have come to these conclusions.
How can a person justify their teaching that a woman can't wear slacks made and designed specifically for woman from the context of this verse? Just read the whole verse and I think two things stand out very predominantly.
1. is that men are not to wear women's garments. That is: the type and design that women wear. Can not the same be meant when it is said just before that, that the woman is not to wear garments pertaining to man - or in other words garments that are specifically made and designed for man.
2. it says for one sex to wear the cloths of the other sex is an abomination to God. Why? Be cause the idea of different styles of clothing between the two genders is to mark a distinction between them. For one to wear the other's clothing is breaking down that distinction and marking those who do as homosexuals and lesbians.
This is not totally true of course - women especially do wear men's clothing, especially farmers who wear old pants or coveralls in the field. But today, a lot of women for no reason but their own wear suits, pants, even men's ties and hats in public and on TV host shows. And not only that, have a man's hair style, making it hard to tell the gender of that person. And that is exactly what God is speaking again against when He makes the above statement.
The principal behind this verse is that whatever type of clothing we wear - there must be a distinction between the cloths worn by the male and those worn by the female. We in America seem to forget that over the centuries that there has been different types of cloths worn by different societies. Robes have been worn for thousands of years - long before North America was discovered, and in fact robes still are used in many nations. Which gender is wrong in their use of the robe, because to an untrained eye they look the same. Even Jesus wore robes, so was He wrong because He wore clothing that appeared to look like a woman's. No, of course not - because these robes that were worn in days past and up to the present had a distinction between them so you could tell by the robe worn what sex was wearing it. I couldn't tell you the difference because I am not familiar enough with their clothing - but the society that does wear it can tell. And this is true of any style of cloth you can think of. Think of the Scottish kilt. Are they wrong to wear their kilts. Which sex is wrong - the man for wearing a skirt like clothing that looks like a woman's skirt or the woman for wearing what a man wears. By all common sense - neither is wrong.
Just keep in mind it is only the last fifty years (since the mid 1900s) or so that the two genders seem to like wearing the others apparel. Before that this was never an issue, so there was always a distinction - even if they had a basic look to them - like the robe.
To answer that go back to what I said above about the principal being - to keep a distinction between the man's clothing and the woman's clothing. And in the kilt there is that distinction. Again, I could not tell the difference between them if I just saw a kilt laying around - but the one's who wear them can. If that is true of the robe that has been worn all down through the history of man - and don't forget that the style of clothing we wear in North America is relatively new compared to the history of man, why can't we apply the same principal to our own clothing here in North America? As long as there is a distinction between what men wear and what women wear that is what God is trying to get across - that is His desire.
Why do people pick on slacks for women. After all, what about all other articles of clothing - from underwear to any outside clothing you want to mention. Men and woman wear the equivalent, called by a slightly different name and looking a bit different, but essentially the same article. Let's face it. there is only one article of clothing women have that men do not have - we do not need to duplicate it because we have no need for it. Yet we accept the fact each gender wears their own article because each one is designed for that gender. We accept that. So what is the difference between that and men's pants and women's slacks. There is a plain distinction in their design - one for man - one for woman. If a woman does wear her husbands clothes - then she is wrong. Or if a man wears a woman's slacks - skirt and blouse, or dress, or any other article of women's dress - then he is wrong - that is an abomination to God - the person who does is probably a pervert, and I think that is one thing God is speaking against when He makes that statement quoted above.
After saying all this I will now state my own personal preference. Remember - what I said above is according to the letter of the law. But remember we are not under the law so should not judge ourselves under the law. If we do not judge by the law we should judge right and wrong according to the following scriptures:
Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
If we get caught up in the letter of the above statement instead of the principal of that statement we would understand from the above verse that we could not eat meat if it offended our brother in some way, and no further meaning to it was meant. But I think you would think that foolish - and you are right. The principal He is making here is what God wants us to live by and not just a one meaning "letter of the law" of eating no flesh if we offend someone, which we would do if we just stick to the letter of the statement, But to a covering of numerous situations that are not covered in black and white - a written law. You can't possibly make laws to cover every possible situation - so a principal is laid down, and that principal can cover a very large number of occasions by judging our actions against the principal. Only a spiritual person - one who is led by that new Holy nature God gives us when we are born again (saved) can truly discern what is expedient (fitting/appropriate), or can judge what edifies God, or what doesn't.
If you were to talk to an unsaved person you would have him ask "what is wrong with doing such and such a thing? I see nothing wrong with it" And he can't, because his judgment is based on his human nature intellect. This is true also of a newly born again person because understanding of every right and wrong does not come over night. But as a person grows in knowledge and wisdom given that one by the Holy nature in us, then we understand more and more what is expedient and what is not. Even then, there are those that God gives much wisdom and understanding to and others he gives very little. Also, some grow at a faster rate than others. Growing in grace (spiritual under standing through the influence of God's Holy spirit at work in us.) is a lifelong process. It depends upon the measure of faith given by God of our understanding of spiritual things - including right and wrong, what is expedient, what edifies God, what doesn't.
Oh yes, you can wash the outside of the cup and deceive people into thinking the cup (or church, and people make up the church) is all nice and clean (righteous) yet in reality they are filthy and dirty (have no understanding of right & wrong or no understanding of why they are forbidden to do the things they are by the church) inside. Which way would you rather have your church, clean on the outside, made clean by the keeping to the letter of the law - probably teaching untruths - saying the Bible says such and such when in reality it is not saying any such thing. You do not teach untruths (or more bluntly - lies) to accomplish God's (or more than truthfully, your own) purpose no matter how good the intentions are. Do you really believe God would bless an individual or church who tells untruths to accomplish a goal no matter how good the intention? Hardly - so why do it? No wonder there are so many Baptist churches who are like a wintertime tree - alive, but no fruit (growth) to show their life. It may look good on the outside - but God does not look on the outside, He monitors the inside, the hearts of the people.
Or would it be better if we accomplish the same goal by basing our teachings on the verses I quoted just above. I believe it would be better to teach the principal of the law from the pulpit - then the Holy Nature in you will give you understanding of what truly is right and what is wrong. When you have that under standing from the Holy nature working in you - then you will live a righteous life by nature - a way of life natural to you given by that new Nature in you, and you will not have to be forced to do so by threats of church discipline or any other kind of punishment if you fail. True, the appearance of the church might not look as pure because there might be people about doing things which you would prefer them not to, who have not been convicted by the Holy nature as yet. Even then I wonder, God will bless those depending on Him quicker than if they depend on one's own effort. But at least the church is honest, giving an honest showing of itself and not just a superficial show of righteousness - something it really isn't. I think God would bless that church for that, more than all good intentions brought about by wrong methods. (lies)
I started to give my own opinion of a woman wearing slacks. After saying all I have said above - and being a Christian for a long time I think I have enough spiritual wisdom to make the following judgment. I still do believe that in our society a woman should wear a dress to church. That may seem contradictory after all I said above. No - I think it is very consistent with all I've said above. What did I say about judging everything we do by asking ourselves these three questions. Is it:
(1) expedient (fitting, appropriate)
(2) will it offend someone.
(3) will it edify God.
Let's go over these questions one by one.
(1) Is it fitting for a Christian woman to wear slacks - no matter how dressy - to church.
(2) Will it offend someone if she does.
I ask these two questions together because I think the answer to the second answers the first. Yes, in our society there are people - in fact I would say most people - who do not consider slacks, no matter how dressy, a form of formal dress for a woman, therefore it is not fitting to wear them to church. I think it is fitting to wear dress cloths in honor of our Majestic Majesty - God, who is there present with us. I think this is right, because people do not wear slacks and blouse or even a pant suit to a formal occasion. It is even advised that women looking for a job wear a decent dress and not slacks and blouse, or a pant suit to the interview with the personnel manager, that they would feel insulted if a woman showed up wearing such apparel. Yet women want to wear such cloths in the presence of our Majestic, Lord of Lords.
I know this for a fact because a few years ago when I was still looking for a job I took about five different courses on job hunting from different sources, and each one of them STRESSED that women wear dress up dresses and men wear suits if they ever expected to land a job. Several of the films we watched were filmed in the US, so this is just as true in the United States. Let's give God his due respect too, by dressing our best when attending church - but not flashy!!! And that includes men!! So I would prefer and encourage a woman to wear dresses to church - but would not force them to by any kind of church discipline or telling them they had to, or making it church policy for members to do so. That would spoil a voluntary act and would not warrent a blessing from God if they wore dresses just because they were ordered to by the church instead out of respect for our Majestic Lord.
Preach what I have said from the pulpit, let the Holy Nature in us do the convicting, then it is between the individual and God. If God wants respect - He will convict a person how to show it. You do not force people to respect yourself or anyone else - even God - when you deserve it.
How long should a dress be? The Bible does not say - but I think it does make a principal that cloths should be a covering of most of our flesh - the more flesh covered the better. Remember, down the centuries right through to the 1920s women wore ankle length dresses. There must have been some reason for it. I do not know if God demands this length, but I will say this, knee length may be acceptable for a Christian, but every inch below the knees I think God would be that much more pleased with you. Above the knee??
The next item I would like point out is the matter of hair length. Once again a great many Baptist churches uses one or two obscure scriptures to enforce a meaning that was not intended by God. The churches flatly state men's hair must be short, that is, cut about as short as you can to the skin. They use the following scripture to prove their point:
1 Corinthians 11:14-15
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
This scripture leaves no doubt that the hair of man is to be short and the hair of women long. But it gives no indication of how short short is or how long long is. So, if anyone makes a firm statement that a person's hair must be kept at such and such a length, whether scalp length or trailing on the ground, he is just not being truthful.
A person can get as angry as he wishes over that statement, but the fact will still remain, no definite length is quoted in the Bible. So let's use the brains God gave us and look at the above verses in the light of what I said before about God wanting a distinction in the appearance of male and female. That again is the principal here - a distinction between the length of a man's and woman's hair so we can tell what gender they are by looking at them. By not making a flat demand that man's hair be such and such a length God is giving us some flexibility in how long we can have our hair. Once again - the idea is to mark a distinction between a man's hair length and style verses a woman's. If this is true then we should look at what length of hair does it take to make a man start looking feminine. I would say with out doubt, by the time a man's hair touches his shoulder he is starting to look feminine, especially from the rear, or if seen only in profile - unable to see the face clearly. If a man looks feminine with his hair touching his shoulder, and God does not want men looking feminine - then it is the job of man to keep his hair above shoulder length.
But that is only a guideline - with no definite statement as to what length is OK with God, we can not make any flat statement as to what length we must keep it. But I do think this is a good guide for us men. Keep that hair above (off) the shoulders. Or, we could also just make that a guideline taking strictly into account God's demand of a distinction between male and female appearance.
We could just get together with the women and agree to: men, keep your hair style above the shoulder, and women will grow their hair longer than shoulder length - so when anyone looks at us that plain distinction is very clear and what gender we are is plain by our hair length and style - which is what God wants.
A woman is the reverse of a man. If we go by the first suggestion - trying to figure out when a man starts looking feminine, now let's figure out when a woman starts looking masculine. Since a man looks the way he should (masculine) with his hair above the shoulder - then it is obvious a woman will start looking masculine when her hair is above her shoulder. So, in order that she not look masculine, it is her job to keep her hair at least shoulder length - but how much longer - who cares, she can have it as long as she wishes - the longer, the more glory to her as the above scripture states. How short a man keeps his hair above his shoulder is up to him - who cares, the shorter the better - even to baldness. In fact, as you know, baldness among men is very common - how many bald women do you see? But remember - this is all only a guide line - not a flat statement of you must do it this way.
I find it awful strange that a lot is made of a man having his hair too long - even when it isn't according to what I am writing here - and yet nothing is said to women when they have their hair very short - and yet the Bible says just as much about short hair on women as long hair on men. What's the matter, you men afraid of your wives and don't dare bring this to their attention? Do you see what I mean when I say people tend to grab onto certain subjects and blow it all out of proportion while leaving other just as important scripture unattended to? Could that be why God does not put a Christian under the law, because of man's inconsistency?
The drinking of alcohol beverages.
The next item I wish to cover is a very controversial subject, but yet, the continuance of churches teaching what they do can have very serious consequences against that church - no matter how good the intention of their teaching. So I would like to go over it even if it does make certain people angry. A person getting angry does not make them right. Do we want to know and teach the truth, or would we rather teach a lie to satisfy our own ego? If the latter is the case then you won't like what I say next, and yet if you do read all of what I say you will see that our objective is the same. That subject is on a Christian having casual drinks - not drunkenness, that is strictly forbidden in the Bible - no doubt about that, but just a casual drink, or even drink short of drunkenness or what causes problems in the home.
It is the position - and is taught by many Baptist churches that the Bible flatly says one should not take any form of strong drink - wine or otherwise. That is a flat lie. And as I said before you do not tell lies to accomplish your own purpose no matter how good your intentions are. In the first place, if the Bible flatly states we are never to take strong drink Jesus Himself is a liar and a sinner. "What?" I can just here someone saying as they read this - "did I read you right?" You don't believe that surely". Well if you read your Bible and get all the facts before you make policies you would know that Jesus Himself not only drank wine - for in those days water was not plentiful and went stale very quickly, so they drank wine instead - He also made it for others at a wedding feast. Let's read the following scripture.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, but wisdom is justified of her children.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the overnor of the feast called the bridegroom, etc.
In the first verse above it quotes the accusations of Jesus' enemies, and like most people, gossips who are enemies of the truth, who wants to find any kind of fault they can with a person, in all probability greatly exaggerated Jesus' drinking - but, there must have been some truth in their accusation - Jesus did drink wine instead of water like everyone else did in his day.
If you want to get the full story start at John 2:1 and go to end of the story. But this is enough to tell you Jesus made wine for a wedding feast - and if you read more you will see He made lots of it, and it was good wine. That is, a good quality wine - which a naturally fermented wine without touch up by man is about 14% alcohol. The seven vessels he filled with wine held about seven gallons each if my information is correct. So judging by the letter of the law alone - The Bible does not flatly condemn the taking of strong drink, not when Jesus Himself took it and made it for others. Oh yes, I know all about the hogwash told about this not being alcohol based wine. That is just another pack of lies those telling it will have to account for when they meet Jesus.
You know - we Baptist claim that our churches are Jesus only true churches, that He is the head of our church - and yet for many of these churches you know what Jesus would have to do if He ever came down to pay these churches a visit? The first thing He would have to do is walk up to the pulpit and say to the pastor something like this - "Pastor, I want to get right with this church - I know that you have your own standard of conduct which surpasses what I asked for by making a covenant not to drink strong drink, and you tell your people that I disallow such conduct in my church - as well as other agreements never required for membership in my own church - I confess to you my sin in doing the very thing you state I condemn, so I admit my error and ask your forgiveness so I can have fellowship with your church."???
What blasphemy!! I wonder if those teaching this way really think they are gaining blessings from God when they put Jesus in such a predicament? Do you see yet what I mean when I say they are not making the church any better by making these agreements? In fact, you are making the church worse in the eyes of God (you may look good in the eyes of man, but not in God's eyes). By making agreements that Jesus did not tell us to we may think we are being more righteous, but in actual fact the method used to accomplish that goal may be a worse sin than the practice we wish to get rid of - by lying and saying the Bible says something it in fact does not. Be very, very careful about this. I wonder which is the worst sin - lying - or having a two or three ounce glass of wine at a wedding maybe two or three times in a lifetime - or at all as long as one does not get drunk for that matter, or if we do not do some of the other things agreed to in the covenant. Verses like Proverbs 12:22 I think will answer that question.
Oh yes, the intentions are good, no doubt about that, but still not scripturally true!! Put away those lies and teach the truth - the same results can be accomplished by teaching the truth - those same principals we have covered before. Is it expedient/fitting/appropriate) for a Christian to consume strong drink, will it edify God? And the answer and obedience of that answer gets you the same result as teaching the Bible condemns drinking - only truthfully, not telling lies.
The answer to that question - is it appropriate for a Christian to drink is - NO, not in our society. You note I said not in our society. In the society Jesus lived in there was no problem with people taking casual drinks or even drinking at a wedding - and certainly not drinking wine instead of polluted water. If Jesus wished to, He could have spent His life healing the polluted water He drank to make it fit to drink, but He didn't, He chose to do as everyone else did, drink wine instead.
Even in places in North America there are people that would not be offended if a Christian drank some strong drink. In Mexico, which is part of N.A. and in our Canadian province of Quebec among the French Canadians that is no problem. So it is really only among the English speaking society of North America where it is a problem, where people would be offended if they saw a Christian drinking strong drink. Since we live among the English speaking society, then we do have to take this into consideration when we judge whether it is appropriate for one to have an occasional drink. And that answer again is - NO. There is other reasons of course why I would advise a person to stay away from strong drink of any kind. And that of course is that strong drink is addictive. The Bible does warn us against the excess of wine or strong drink - but the only trouble is, when does it become excessive? Let's read the following warning:
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Who is deceived? A person who thinks he can handle strong drink and not loose control. One who is an alcoholic and does not even realize it. Because of this my suggestion is to everyone - leave it alone, it can too easily get you into a lot of trouble, you can too easily loose control of it and it will control you instead and you not even realize it. It is true Paul in the New Testament advised a follower to use wine as a medicine for his stomach problems, but I think in our day we have enough other medicines to take care of stomach or any other problem that we do not have to resort to wine or any other strong drink. Wine by the way is a good medicine - if only recently invented it would rank as a "wonder drug".
So you see I do not believe in taking strong drink, and certainly recommend others do not either. All I am trying to say by what I have said here is to take the lie out of our teaching and teach the proper method of accomplishing the exact same goal. If we do that we are consistent with Bible. Some things - like casual drinking - may be perfectly appropriate in some societies, while in others it may not be. When we use the questions of -
(1) Is it expedient/fitting/appropriate
(2) will it offend people seeing me do it, whether a brother in Christ or a non-believer and:
(3) will it edify God. (will it make me look good and glorify my profession in God or will it make myself and God look low and cheap).
To answer the question to do or not to do based on the above questions gives us more flexibility in whether the answer is yes or no - and more accuracy - and more honesty. It would also correct the error of not taking wine for the Lord's supper - using many other different unscriptual liquids instead - such as grape juice.
If you have read this far you will by now see I do not believe much differently than most Baptist people do, the difference is how I accomplish those objectives. I believe that my method is teaching what the Bible says, rather than what I want it to say and end up telling untruths to accomplish my purpose, like so many Baptist people do.
What type of church government should we look for in a Baptist church I am interested in joining? Let's look at a couple of scriptures to see what kind of system they used in the early church, and the authority a pastor has:
Luke 22:25- 27
But Jesus called them unto him, and said ye know that the, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
These two scriptures from two different parts of the Bible that say almost word for word - that Christian churches are not to follow the practices of the world in their leadership. That is, the world has a big boss over the whole organization and their people with different rank who control the leadership of the whole. In the old Testament the Lord's Priests were the indisputable bosses, both political and religious. What they said was law. And look at the mess they made of their beliefs. They, like most people who have sole power abused that power for their own purpose.
So, under the church dispensation things have changed - God has given the authority to the local church, not any one individual or group. No, the church of Christ is a local assembly only, many of them throughout the world, but each one being an independent body governed by itself, of the people, by the people and for the people of that local body. The leader of each local assembly, ideally should be picked out of that particular assembly - otherwise, how do you know what kind of man he is, or really, what he believes. If one can't be found in one's own assembly, at least ask a man whom is well known from a sister church. And note from the above scripture: that pastor is to be subject to the church, a servant of that assembly, not it's overlord, but rather it's overseer. What is an overseer? From the dictionary I find the following definition:
1. a person who oversees
2. a Person who surveys, watches over
3. a person who examines: peruse.
4. a person who directs or supervises, superintends
Still not too clear on his actual duties is it? I think the best definition of a servant overseer is: "A servant who has been chosen by his master to see that the policies of the master is carried out."
We must not forget the pastor is a servant of the assembly, he does what the assembly tells him to do, not the other way around. In Acts 20:28 a pastor of a church is referred to as an overseer. So, put these two words together and we get a servant overseer.
I think the definition given above is precisely what God intended a pastor to be. A servant - a senior servant, who knows the will of the master better than any others, who has proven his knowledge of the word, faithfulness, his integrity, and obedience, to carry out the decrees and policies of that master and of course the Bible, which should be one and the same. And note it is the master (the church in our case) that makes the policies and decrees, not the servant. Of course his main job is to preach and teach God's word, but if employed full time then these other responsibilities are delegated to him also, leaving the other members who work elsewhere free to carry on with their life. But carrying out the laid down decrees of the church is as far as the delegated authority from the church to the pastor goes. He does not have the authority to abuse people verbally or physically if they say or do something he does not like. He can and should talk to such a person, but to abuse him is not Christ's style, verbally or in any way. He is not an authority figure. Christ's style is found in:
2 Timothy 2:24-25
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.
A pastor should be open and willing to talk to the other members. Even most large companies of the world have an avenue for employees to air their grievances. If a member of a church feels that there is error in a church he should be able to go to the pastor and talk about it. And the pastor should be man enough to let him. They should be able to talk it over man to man, after all, the member just could be right. And I mean talk it over, not just a one sided affair where either side has all the say, that will prove nothing except who can talk louder or faster than the other. A pastor who thinks just because he is pastor, that the pastor is the only one God shows truths to is treading on very thin ground. With that kind of attitude God could very likely be keeping from him some very important truths, He will not overly bless a man with that kind of attitude, he may have some truth, but not a lot, or as much as he could have if he listened to others who God has really blessed.
I personally know "laymen" who are very knowledgeable, who would put most pastors to shame. I have also known of invalids, who never left their sickbed who knew more than most pastors, God may have given that person a grievous cross to bear in his being an invalid, but made it up by opening up his mind to spiritual knowledge. God does as He pleases - He has no fit pattern He works in - He gives spiritual wisdom to whom He pleases, whether a pastor or some insignificant person other people has nothing to do with them. So, my advise, if a pastor thinks himself too good to listen to you, then I would look for another church to join. If you already belong to such a church - you're a bit late to do much about it. You can try talk to the church - but in my experience, most members will follow the lead of the pastor - no matter how wrong the pastor may be. Unfortunately that is human nature, to follow the pastor, and not listen to a peer, anyone of their own level. That is why we have so many churches down through history fail, because each church has somewhere along the line got a pastor who taught them unscriptural doctrines until God wrote that church off as useless to Him - He blew out the candle of that church. And the members just blindly followed them, trusting that he knew what was best. Pastors have a great responsibility in this regard to MAKE SURE what is being taught in the church is the truth - and that includes his own teachings. Remember what blowing out it's candle means? It means God takes His authority to operate as His church away from that church. When a pastor takes too much authority, takes over as master instead of the church being master - that church becomes: "The Church of - pastor's name" - Not a church of Jesus Christ any more.
The actual governing of a church is a democratic system. I mentioned above that this system is of the people, by the people and for the people. That is where the fathers of the American Constitution got that expression from. Let's look at an example of how things were done in the early church.
In acts 1 we see a case where two men were picked (or nominated) out of the company of believers to take the place of one man, Judas. Once the company had nominated two men - they all cast lots - a system of voting - and one man was chosen. The same thing happened in Acts 6, where seven men were picked to carry out the menial task of looking after the needs of the congregation. But one thing stands out, it was the church as a whole did the picking, not the pastor or any other individual, then the church just approve his recommendation. This system used here is in our day called the "Parliamentary System". If you want to get the full details of this system you can get books on the subject. But basically, the system allows for each person in that business meeting to state his views and nominate who he wishes to do a job. For instance, in the case of a church, each member can nominate a person he or she feels they want to fill a certain position in the church.
There could be numerous people nominated by several different members. Then after deliberation, the congregation as a whole would vote on who they personally wanted for the position - and the person receiving the most votes would get the position. The pastor - or person leading the meeting - only votes if there is a tie in the vote to break the tie. That is the way it is supposed to work. Each person has a right to make suggestions, nominate, deliberate the pros and cons and then vote, and who or what gets the most votes wins and gets carried out.
Unfortunately, there are those who abuse this system and will not conform to the will of the majority. One person just has to have his or her own way even if they were the only ones voting their way. They keep on arguing for their way even after they have lost the vote. If this does happen, the one refusing to conform to the majority should be rebuked and put in their place. But instead of that, in many cases the church changes the system of governing the church so the pastor makes all the suggestions and recommendations and then asks the body to say yes or no to his suggestion. That is unscriptural, and certainly undemocratic, even if there is a resemblance of democracy in it. Only the suggestions and opinions of the pastor ever gets heard and voted upon. True, the body could vote the pastors suggestion or recommendations down, but how often is that done? What other suggestions or recommendations have they got to vote on if no one else can make any, so the body usually just approves what the pastor advises, Which means the pastor gets his own way all the time, and in effect, is ruling the church because he is making the decrees and policies, the church just approves them because they have no way of voicing their own ideas.
I personally have seen a pastor make a recommendation and a member of the business meeting asked him a few questions on what was recommended, and the pastor got angry - maybe not saying much, but his tone of voice made it clear that he was implying - "how dare you question me"?. That is terrible, and just should not be in a Baptist church where the pastor is the servant of the church and the church is the master. No wonder our churches do not have much influence in the world any more, we are no better than them in our practice. You call that democratic?? And yet that is the way many Baptist churches operate their "democratic" government. And yet a pastor using such a system of running a business meeting wonders why he is accused of favoritism when he recommends no one but his family and closest friends to the church leadership - and of course the church will vote in his recommendations. If he left nominations and recommendations to the church members - as he should - that would not happen.
If the above mentioned problem does occur, the persons responsible should be corrected, not the democratic system of governing the church be changed. It is preached that the reason that our churches do not have much influence in this world in our day is because of sin in our midst, such thing as adultery, homosexuality, thievery, etc., but I think the errors mentioned just above can be added to that list. The church system of government is very important.
Another problem within our churches is the deacons. Deacons were used in the early churches yes, but only as helpers of the pastor, and were given no authority to overlord either the pastor or the church itself. The deacons are subject to the pastor and they are both subject to the church. Deacon boards that are elected to carry out church government in the name of the church is strictly unscriptural, and especially so when they make policies without any consideration to what the church as a whole wants or without their approval. Pastors are usually hired on for life, but that is at the discretion of the church again, they still have the right to fire a pastor if the pastor is found wanting in the opinion of the church, and of course the pastor himself could retire if he so pleased.
The same with the deacons. If a church is happy with the deacons, then why not keep them on without even a business meeting to decide, but if he wants to retire, or does something that calls for dismissal then the church has that flexibility to elect that one out and seek another. The church is the one to decide the policies on this matter, not the pastor, not the custom of other churches or anybody else for that matter. In a small church of a few dozen there should be only one deacon, a very large church of several hundred might require several, but how many churches of our kind have that many? but no matter how many, they are the servants of the church and they and the church should never forget that.
All this sure makes it an awful lot to look for in searching out a church fit to join doesn't it? But all these problems do exist, so yes, it is a great problem. However, you must realize, you will never find a perfect church - correct in every detail. All you can do is find a church as close to what you feel is correct in most doctrines and practices especially in the cardinal doctrines mentioned earlier in this article. If TOO many of these borderline problems exist I would be very reluctant to join that church either - you must decide for yourself what differences you can tolerate between what they might believe to what you believe is correct. This also leaves some flexibility on your part, because it is just possible you may be wrong on some of those subjects yourself. I pray the Lord may guide you in that effort. I suggest you ask the Lord for direction in this matter.
I started this article with the idea of a quick explanation of our beliefs, but as I got into the work I felt that just to compare the differences between the different kinds of Baptist churches was not enough, an explanation of all the terms used, as well as where different churches fit into them must be understood before one could even be half expected to accept what Missionary Baptist churches believe. These are the things you must look for in Baptist churches - each one must be evaluated individually, and after learning what an individual church teaches you must decide whether you can accept that teaching. If not, go on to another you can accept it's teachings, and join it. My advise is that when you join a church make sure you know as much of it's teachings as possible so you do not find out later on that they do not teach as much truth as you thought they did, it will save you a lot of heartache.
So, dear reader, I present to you the church that Jesus built, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in our time - a Baptist Church, a Missionary Baptist Church, or a - Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. AMEN